It’s About Bloomin’ Time!

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I have been really excited lately.  And this is why:

Hi Hydrangeas!

My hydrangeas are blooming! And they are so bloomin’ pretty, I can hardly contain myself.

I read in BHG magazine that studies have shown that flowers actually elevate a woman’s mood.  Well, duh!  Of course they do!!  This is no scientific breakthrough.

Flowers? For me? Oh, you shouldn’t have. (I really picked these for myself)

The blooms explode into pink fluffy pom poms, making hydrangeas the “cheerleaders” of the plant world.  They have definitely brought me lots of cheer.

I got a little flower happy and put these all over the house.

Three years ago we moved into our townhouse. Here’s what it looked like before I started digging in the dirt:

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I know. Depressing.  This was in the dead of winter, and I was too excited about moving in to care.  Isn’t that tree pathetic? Looks like it’s had one too many cocktails if you ask me. It finally bit the dust, and that’s when the fun began.
Two hydrangeas & two callas later, this is how it looked. Oh yeah, we got a new tree too.

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Two years later, now look how much they’ve grown:

Pow!  Explosion!  They are so big, you can hardly see our little tree, but it’s back there.

And many of you know, the color comes from the ph in the soil.  I have heard it is easier to change them from pink to blue than from blue to pink.

But I really can’t offer any advice, because 1) I’m no good at chemistry.  2) I have no experience with it.  Because I happen to like the pink pom poms just the way they are 🙂

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Hydrangeas make wonderful cut flowers.   See, I told you I put them all over the house.  They practically arrange themselves in vases:

Just two stems in one vase. No arranging necessary.

And they have a pretty long vase life.  Here’s the same arrangement one week later.  Barely noticeable wilt:

And two weeks later:

“A little wilt but they smell nice” (they actually are not fragrant flowers)

These probably wouldn’t have wilted as much, but the water level in the vase got too low.  They get very thirsty!  Keep an eye on the water level in your vase. I’m always amazed how much water they drink in a days time (probably why they are called hydrangeas, you have to keep them hydrated).  Changing the water every couple days will extend your vase life.  Another tip is cutting the stem at an angle. This creates a bigger surface area so the hydrangeas can drink up as much water as possible.  Penny for your thoughts? Nah, but a penny for your flowers works wonders. Drop one in the vase. This will keep them fresh as well.

This is random but just sticks in my mind.

“I absolutely loathe hydrangeas,” mumbled Madonna after a fan presented her with a lovely bouquet.  Apparently, she didn’t realize she was still in microphone range because everyone heard it.  She later issued an apology to hydrangeas, and hydrangea lovers everywhere (but not to the fan who gave them to her).

the material girl likes roses

Apology accepted, Madge.  But I think you need like, a prayer or something.  How could anyone loathe hydrangeas!?  I absolutely loathe your latest song and think the cheerleaders in the video could use some big fluffy pink pom poms!   Still, I can’t hate her.

Maybe the fan should have given her the pink ones.

Oops, I Mint to Do That…

Think you don’t have a green thumb? I bet you can grow mint. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow, and hardest to kill, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Mint can be quite invasive, so be very careful when planting it. I highly recommend keeping it contained in a pot with no other plants. Mint will bully any surrounding plants and eventually take over. Especially if you put it in the ground.

I had a planter filled with mint last year, and though I had been warned, I decided to plant a little in the ground. Rookie mistake.

I thought I could avoid the invasion by planting it in this area (aka “where plants go to die”) where the soil is “filler dirt” made of thick clay with no nutrients. Plus 6-8 hours full sun >98 degrees (it gets hot here in NC)… it’s a tough growing environment. I’ve seen many plants bite the big one.

Small mint plant bordering the bushes

I thought the thick clay would keep it contained. Like its very own clay pot, right? Wrong. Here’s what I’m dealing with this year:

Surprise! Look what’s been hiding behind the bushes.  That is NOT where I planted it.

The mint is back with a vengeance! Where no plant has grown before! It crossed over one of the bushes, it’s taking the inside! It’s even starting to spread laterally, it’s moving next door,  it’s growing, it’s growing…

Oops! I hope the neighbors like mojitos.

On a good note, look at all this mint I have now. And I like mint. No, I’m not just saying that because it has me surrounded. Here’s what mint can do for you:

Mojitos

The whole reason I started growing this plant in the first place. I love mojitos. They are my favorite cocktail of all time.

Ever noticed that mint is very expensive in the grocery store? This just kills me. We’ve all seen how easy it is to grow. And grow, and grow…

Here’s a basic mojito recipe:

  • 5-10 mint leaves plus a couple sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons mint infused simple syrup (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (not store bought) plus 2 wedges for garnish
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces rum (see my note below)
  • 1/2 cup club soda (approx)

First make the simple syrup: Mix 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Then let it steep with a handfull of mint leaves for an hour or so. Strain out the leaves and store in the fridge till you’re ready to use it.

If you’re in a hurry you can skip this step, just add about 1 tbsp sugar to lime juice. But you’re going to need to muddle the hell out of that mint: (Add about 5 mint leaves to a cup of ice, get your muddler, and muddle away. Muddling releases the essence of the mint).

About the rum; most recipes call for white rum. However, I was once schooled that to make a real Cuban mojito, you need dark rum (not spiced) made with sugar cane, such as Havana Club 9. It really gives the drink a richer flavor. But I don’t turn down mojitos made with white rum. Use what you like. Experiment.

Making the drink:

2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup + 3 tablespoons fresh lime + 2 ounces rum + muddled mint and ice cubes in a shaker. This is the part where I shake what my grandmother gave me. 😉 Seriously. This bar set belonged to her.

Pour shaken drink into glass and top with club soda. Lightly stir, adding lime wedges and mint sprigs for garnish.

Fancy Ice Cubes

They’re not just for mojitos anymore! Give any beverage a refreshing kick with a mint ice cube.

Now that’s a tall drink of water.

You don’t need directions for this one. Also use this trick with lemons, as I’ve done here. Or oranges. Really any fruit works. But I don’t have fruit growing and taking over my back yard, so work with me here…

Aromatic Arrangements

My roses are between bloom cycles, so I thought I’d try a different arrangement.

It’s a cute, fresh way to bring the outdoors in. An added bonus: it smells really good. I keep it in the kitchen, but as soon as I walk in the door I can smell the sweet aroma. Mint is really fragrant, but not overpowering. It’s used in many creams and lotions and is said to have relaxing benefits.

Mint Julep

How can I not talk about mint juleps when it’s Kentucky Derby time!?

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Whiskey

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Whiskey. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Drink tastes best if you’re wearing a fancy hat.

Other uses I have not tried yet are relaxing mint tea, mint in cooking and salads. Actually, I did try the cooking one but that was a FAIL.

Mint can also be used as a garnish for desserts, especially chocolate

Or chew on a sprig to freshen your breath:

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And mint is not toxic to cats. Catnip is actually from the mint family. Those aromatic arrangements are seen as “edible arrangements,” so make sure they are in a safe place where kitty won’t tip the vases over.

Apothecary On…

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I just love apothecary jars.

The shiny glass, unique shapes… they are pretty enough even when empty.  When decorating with these, opportunities are endless!


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I filled this jar with....Ok, I have no idea what you call these things. Vine balls maybe? Anyway, now I call them pretty. I think that's just vine and dandy.

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Same jar, same vine ball things. In honor of spring time, I added a few moss rocks (that I found at Michael's) to add some lush, green color. These are both natural elements, so they work well together.

Here’s more of that lush green:

Natural elements look great when grouped in jars of varying heights.

Apothecary jars turn wine corks from trash to treasure. Like I needed an excuse to drink more wine....

Many people have decorative (real or fake) fruit bowls on their tables. Ever helped yourself to a delicious looking apple, only to bite into plastic?! It’s no fun. Here’s the solution:

Plastic fruit is less likely to get chomped on if in one of these jars. A unique alternative to decorative fruit bowls. Also great for real fruit, too.

These jars are commonly used to display seashells. And I can't think of a better way to do such a thing. But we can't all live at the beach, right? But if you do, I highly suggest doing something like this.

So you’re not a beach dweller and the coastal theme just doesn’t work in your home?  You have plenty of other options.  Just throw some random objects in a pretty jar.  You’d be surprised what works.

This is cute and unexpected:

Spools of thread look sew nice!

Buttons, old door knobs, old jewelry, rocks, sand, candles, potpourri, old silverware, you name it, I bet it works.  You’d be surprised.  Design is all about surrounding yourself with what you love.  These jars help you do just that in an organized fashion.  Unless you prefer to pile your old buttons on the floor (please don’t do that).

Bring nature indoors with a terrarium, or two, or six:

How sweet does this candy buffet look? Almost too good to eat! Nah…

Not only decorative, these jars can be used in various rooms of the house, combining function with beauty.

Can a laundry room get any better than this? This one is Martha Stewart’s, of course. Laundry detergent and clothes pins are stored in shapely jars. Another plus: you can tell exactly when you are running out of detergent. No more “Surprise! Just enough left for one more load.” I hate when that happens.

I’d say these kitchen arrangements are pretty tasteful:

Also useful in the bathroom:

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Cotton swabs are neatly displayed in my guest bathroom.

Soaps, loofahs, bath salts look so elegant

Sea Glass inspired soap cubes. You can make these using a kit and an ice cube tray.

Apothecary jars are especially fun to decorate with on holidays.

This all started on Easter with these hand painted speckled eggs and moss. You can buy speckled eggs for a pretty penny. I paid about a dollar for these and painted them myself. A toothpick works wonders when adding the speckles.

Eggciting!

Shrunken heads and glittered skulls on Halloween:

Glittered skulls. I'm a firm believer that if you put glitter on it, it's not scary. With the exception clown makeup. A glittery clown might be even scarier.

Christmas Ornaments:

Here's a more traditional red and green palette. Thought it matched nicely with my Jamaican cat sculpture's toboggin. Cool, mon.

I can't resist pastels, even at Christmas.

Silver and gold ornaments really shine in these jars

Christmas ornaments aren't just for trees

Red and green... that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Versatile little things, aren’t they?  So, what’s in your jars?

Where Art Thou Recipe Cards?

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Last summer, I took my first trip to Washington DC. It was one of my top 10 of best weekends ever. So much to see! The White House, The National Gallery of Art, and more importantly… Britney Spears at the Verizon Center.

Don’t judge me. I’m a Slave….

But back to the art museum. I could have stayed for hours.

I was excited about Monet

I’m one of those geeks that HAS to have a souvenir when I go magical places such as this (probably why I also own 3 Britney Spears t-shirts, but that’s beside the point).  I picked out a couple books of art postcards, even after I was assured by Husband that no one sends post cards anymore.

It is during times like this, that he gets “the look.”

Sometimes I have a vision, and sometimes it is not easily explained. Especially to someone who’s brain has already checked out. He’d had that glazed look in his eye since the Georgia O’Keefe’s.  We needed to get this man a beer, pronto.  And preferably somewhere that has some kind of sports on a tv nearby.  So without a word, I scurried through the check out line and that’s what we did.

Just what did I do with my souvenirs?
I sent everyone I know a post card.  Just kidding!

I jotted down a few recipes on the back of my art post cards:

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So now you can saute with Monet, and have a ball with Warhol. And also…Picasso.
Ok, enough rhyming.

Where’s the beef? Not sure but the recipe is on the back of this card:

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My favorite marinade is on this one:

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And they are cute when displayed in your kitchen:

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Going to a dinner party? Bring your favorite dish & jot the recipe down for the hostess.
A box full of these is a heartfelt gift, or a unique way to pass down family recipes.
You can also load these in your printer to have the recipes typed onto them, if you have horrible handwriting. Or just really need spell check 😉

Yippee skippy for useful souvenirs that won’t collect dust! And I didn’t have to throw elbows with some high school brat trying to cut in line & get the last size small t-shirt. Well, not at the art museum anyway.

If they gave out medals that weekend for patient spouses, I think my husband would have gotten the gold, silver, & bronze.
Last week I mentioned that Madonna is on tour. This time, I got the look.

Purrfectionist

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I like to paint. But I just don’t get to do it enough. When I try, this is the kind of stuff that happens:

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Also, I’m very detail oriented. Kind of a perfectionist. I’ve heard that we all have OCD tendencies about at least one thing. Actually, I have a few of those tendencies…but painting might be number 1.
When I start painting, I get lost in it. Next thing I know, 4 hours have passed, and I’ve forgotten to eat lunch. I might not even realize that I’ve been drinking the paint water & my beverage is over there untouched…

Ok, that never happened. Except that one time. Don’t drink milk when doing a white wash, you’re asking for trouble.

Last year I decided that I needed to do an Andy Warhol style series featuring my cat, Julius. But I got wrapped up in the details (go figure) & decided to just do one painting of my furball.

After I finished it, I took it to have it framed. When I brought it back home, I unwrapped it & leaned it against the wall to show the hubs. But someone else had to have a look too.
Just look at that face. He was very moved.

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So moved that he decided not to move.

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I finally bribed him with some treats.

Now we have a Bengal kitten, Bianca also. She’s still looking for her picture on the wall…

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A Little Spring in My Step

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. But I think Spring is the most wonderful time of the year. I will gladly bear the waves of yellow pollen to step outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. Even if that breath of fresh air is going to make me sneeze later. Right now I have some hybrid tea roses that are really showing off. Few things make me happier than bringing fresh cut flowers in the house.

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I used to avoid cutting flowers from the garden. Rookie mistake.
Short stemmed beauties, such as these tea roses, can be enjoyed inside as well. Mini bud vases allow them to stand out.

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These mini bud vases from cb2 are perfect for small blooms & won’t break the bank. Making a small arrangement like this is easy.

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Or put a single flower in each vase. You can group them together for more drama.

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I had to move these off of my counter top, someone sneaky was giving them the eye…
Happy Spring!

Shall we tango?

Experts are calling orange, or tangerine tango, this season’s hottest color.

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People can be afraid of bold colors, especially orange. But it doesn’t have to be scary.
A safe, noncommittal way to use such a bold color is to add a few accents. A throw here, a vase there.

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Small pops of color can add a lot. Ordinary objects can be spray painted a bright hue. And if you ever get tired of it, waa-laa! Just paint that sucker another color. Hue got it!

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“Orange you glad cats can not be spray painted?” That’s Julius, pretending to be a statue.

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The frame (above & below) was a pretty white/gold, very shabby chic, from my years of single-dom decorating. Very girly. The husband HATED it. & it really didn’t go. But I couldn’t part with it! I took a chance with some glossy orange spray paint & was more than tickled with the results. It’s also now husband approved! Here’s a less blurry shot:

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Notice my recipe cards are art postcards, but more on that later. Because it takes a little art in the kitchen to get this girl cookin’!

Intro: this blog is a load of … crafts

I’m a painting, decorating, drawing, creating, try-new-things, gardening, traveling, arranging & re-arranging, never-satisfied-with-the-way-things-are kinda gal.  I love to make stuff.  I love pretty things, whether I made it or bought it.  Creativity makes my world go ’round.

My name is Mandy, and I am full of crafts.

If any of this sounds like your cup of tea, then you should check out what I’m up to!  I’ll be crafting, creating, only making a small mess around the house, and having a ball.  Join the party!  And feel free to share your ideas too.